Focus on inclusion in GAA programmes

Marking the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the GAA, councillors were brought up to speed on the development of Gaelic games in the county by club support officers Eddie Bouabse and James Heffernan at Monday’s meeting.

The officers were particularly proud of coaching programmes for transition year students which have been run through secondary schools in Athlone and Mullingar. Such is the success of the programmes that students are able to further contribute by refereeing competitions, coaching first year students, and assisting with summer camps.

GAA programmes being offered across the county include street leagues, Easter and summer camps, and indoor hurling blitzes, all of which aim to increase sporting participation among young people.

A number of children from across the county have also had the honour of playing during half time at senior games in Cusack Park, with every club in the county offered this opportunity at least once last year.

A predominant focus, according to the officers, is to ensure that Gaelic football and hurling are made accessible to children who may not be from traditional GAA backgrounds.

They added that the challenge was to translate every school football or hurling player into a club setting, and for this to happen a good support structure needed to be in place.

Praising the work done by the GAA at local level, county manager Dan McLoughlin said that he was anxious to continue to develop the current system.

“The approach of Westmeath County Council is to keep young people engaged in sport, to ensure a healthy community, and to keep them off the street corners.”

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